Sunday, March 30, 2008

 

Around the World in 80 Days


I have just watched Steve Coogan in “Around the World in 80 Days”.

The Galician connection to this is that I first saw part of this film in July or August, about 3 years ago, in the Tapal plaza in Noia where the town was making a free open air screening of the film. Although I do not believe that the film was a big commercial success, it went down well that night and, seeing it in English for the first time today, I enjoyed it.

Staying with Galicia, this month has seen my busiest visitor statistics for Galicia Guide since the site started. That includes unique visitors, page views and the number of different nations represented by them - which currently hovers at around 30 countries per day.

Hopefully these www tourists will ultimately visit the region and keep the budget value flights going 12 months of the years rather than on seasonal schedules.

For our part, we will be back in the region from 10th of April and although our stay is provisionally for 10 days, I may stay on for longer.

I am also hoping that the spring flora will have started to cover the mountains a predominantly yellow colour by then, but we will have to wait and see. Although most tourists see Galicia in summer, it is Spring when the scenery is at its stunning hiatus, with gauze bushes, brooms and the like covering almost very hill face. The weather can (on good days) be surprisingly hot too.

Friday, March 28, 2008

 

Gordon Brown and the local radio news


I have long despised Tony Blair for policies that not only destabilize the world, but constantly place his personal ethics and “God syndrome” ahead of his real responsibility of doing what is best for Britain. He was a democratic leader elected to represent the best interests of his electorate, not green issues, not the third world and not the catholic church. I was delighted to see him go!

The same can of course be said of the comical George Bush jnr, but the difference is that GB jnr is too stupid to know the implications of his actions.

In the case of Blair, an intelligent man, his actions were always performed with a full knowledge of their eventual impact. GB jnr was simply pointed in one direction and the “on” button was flicked.

Having said all of that, I then see in yesterday’s news that the highly charismatic and outwardly personable Gordon Brown managed to get lost in a function hosted for foreign dignitaries in Britain and on his behalf. Perhaps this signals the start of a new era where George Bush jnr sees an intellectual equal on this side of the Atlantic. God help us all.

Local news channel

This morning I caught the local 7.30am news. I normally turn it off!
A local female teacher was putting forward the notion that (high) school kids should not be allowed to leave school during school hours. Since this was the case (other than in the final year) when I was of school age, I initially agreed.

What then followed was an interview with the moron herself and the reason behind her suggestion.

The reason was to cure childhood obesity!!!!

Apparently every school in Yorkshire has at least 22 fast food outlets within any immediate school area. Just ponder the lunacy and incredulity of this statement for a moment. There are barely this many FF outlets in the city of Leeds, let alone within a 10 minutes walk of any school! And how would an overweight, out of condition fat kid get too and from them.

The icing on the cake was however the actual closing interview with the teacher herself. This moron could hardly speak English. Her vocabulary must have encompassed all of 20 words and she sounded as if she had never attended a day’s schooling in her life.

The thought of this “teacher” teaching anyone should have been the primary news item and the issue of concern to any responsible parent. What is this country coming to.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

 

youtube.com and music

This post has nothing to do with Galicia, but rather youtube.com which I frequently visit to see music videos from the late 70’s and 80’s.

The thing that I find surprising is the number of almost obsessively positive comments about this era of music from the 12 to 20 year old age bracket. Every song I watch has reams of comments from this generation decrying the current pop music scene as rubbish and expressing the wish that they had grown up in my era. All seem happy to advertise that they are from the current (and not my) generation!

It is perhaps not that much of a shock, as for the last 3 years my eldest niece (17 years old 2 days ago) has asked me on each Christmas and birthday to buy her CD’s with the guide of:- “anything that you like and preferably from the 70’s or 80’s”. Her tastes are mainly in the rock genre and she likes everything from Meat Loaf and Motorhead to, well Iron Maiden (a major favourite of the UK’s late teen generation- and mine 30 years ago!).

Just visiting youtube.com again and listening to Olivia Newton John, I am amazed by the comments about her – all overwhelmingly complementary.

On checking profiles I see that many of the contributions are again by much younger people who comment on ONJ’s exceptional beauty.

Whilst I would undoubtedly agree, her image, style and appearance seem at complete odds with the current fashions in the UK. Perhaps I will have to bring this to the attention of my niece who dresses primarily in black, adopts a bleached “make-up” look (very Goth!) and mixes with a collection of friends who adhere to the same image. Based on youtube.com, it would seem that their appearance is as unattractive to their male peers as it is to me and my generation!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

 

Asturias and Halifax bank

To complete, I hope, the Halifax bank saga, I did contact them several times last week and finally got things sorted out – via a call centre operative.

I also made a formal complaint about the whole experience to a customer services guy who was typically trained in pacifying irate customers.

I should get written confirmation of the new mortgage next week, but I am not “banking” on it (my little pun).

I also got the promised (from customer services) call from the original advisor we met with 3 weeks ago.

She told me that because she had been off work for much of the time since, an auto responder had dealt with her emails from the various people who had contacted her on my behalf! I am of course now past caring and went through the motions of accepting an apology masked with typical bank excuses. Needles to say, once the financial year is concluded, we will transfer any money saved with the Halifax to another repository. If we stay in the UK beyond the end of this year we will also switch mortgages.

Again yesterday there was “A Place in the Sun” TV program mention to Asturias which has boosted my Asturiasguide.com visitor figures five fold over the course of yesterday and today – long may these programs continue.

That reminds me that I must give a mention to the excellent www.visitasturias.co.uk website which like my Asturias guide offer loads of information about the region. Give it a look.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

 

Comments

IGNORE MY COMMENTS BELOW, I HAVE NOW ENABLED COMMENTS (although they will be moderated if necessary).

I apologise for the fact that the “comment” function of this blog is disabled.

I am “infrequently” emailed by people pointing out that they could not add a comment and wondering why.

The answer is not that I would not like to read and respond to comments, but, that as a blog that has been going for some years, this one now seems to be on some auto comment responders. These things just send lists or urls intended to provide backlinks and do so automatically.

I got sick of seeing them, having to delete them and generally having my time (and the time of anyone clicking on them) wasted.

As a result I disabled the comment function.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

 

Free at last!


With my galiciaspain.net site now “free” and on a different host I am finally able to think about developing it the way I originally intended to – 2 years ago!

Galiciaguide.com is very much a personal guide to Galicia with our views and opinions at the fore. This does not please everyone, but it avoids the blandness of simply repeating facts and figures, geographical data and well recycled observations.

Galiciaspain.net was always intended to be more of a summary guide, written in the third party and sticking to “chunks” of information that are objective. I can now think about doing that – at last.

We bought a new digital set top box at the weekend. It did not have the features that we expected, so we returned and exchanged it for a higher model. The latter did not work, so we returned that one tonight.

On giving us the refund, the checkout person gave us double the amount by mistake. We immediately pointed this out and had it corrected, but to the surprise of the counter staff. It really makes you wonder if most people are now dishonest and would have said nothing – I guess that they would!

I generally refrain form comments about my personal interests (outside of Galicia), but I am still shaking from the horror of hearing a Lili Allen cover of Mr Blue Sky yesterday. For a few seconds I actually thought that the world was coming to an end, it was that bad. In fact I correct myself. I think that I hoped that the world was coming to an end rather than having to suffer that abomination of sound again.

Monday, March 10, 2008

 

Halifax Bank

I fully expected to be complaining about X9internet today, following from their email of last week, but in fact I am not. The reason is because The Halifax have left them in their wake.

Last week I recited the efforts necessary to make an appointment with a mortgage advisor and the un-professionalism and sheer incompetence of every step in the process.

When I last mentioned events, we had been promised written confirmation of the new arrangement the following week, i.e. last week.

Not surprisingly the week came and went, but correspondence from the Halifax did not.

This afternoon (after the postal delivery) I phoned them. In total I was passed to 4 people at 3 different locations and the conclusion - No one knows of any changes or additions to our mortgage.

Perhaps my wife and myself simply dreamed the whole meeting, or maybe a nightmare would be a better description.

The advisor that we saw was, according to the branch at which we originally saw her, at another branch in Bramley. The next person claimed that she was at our branch (where I first phoned) and finally, but without any real conviction, it was determined that she was on holiday until this Thursday. That is professionalism for you.

In any event, no one had any records or details of our meeting, or the outcome. It seems that either, she has done nothing, or everything magically disappeared down the internet line. Am I surprised - tragically not.

Don’t be ripped off with 0845 numbers
Something everyone should also be aware of is the money that these companies (eg Halifx) make from keeping you on the line and no, I am not just talking about 0870 numbers and the like.

So called national rate 0845 numbers result in up to 40% of the call charges going back to the company you called. Importantly, there is always an alternative “local” rate number that you can use instead.

To find out more, and (as I do), avoid this rip off, see this site –
http://saynoto0870.com/
You can find local rate alternatives to the “con” numbers by the Halifax and all the other Call Centre based companies.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

 

All over the world

I have frequent communications with friends in different parts of the world and most leave me envious of the culture and life quality that they are able to enjoy.

There is however one friend who, despite having a fantastic home and most of the things that the rest of us aspire to, lives in a culture of fear, danger and constant threat. His nation is South Africa and, whenever I give him a story of some terrible event in the UK, he is able to offer up something many times worse from his own country.

There is clearly a message here that there is always someone worse off than you and we all loose touch with it from time to time. In this instance, the friend in question is a far better person than me and someone of near faultless morals and integrity, so clearly something has gone wrong in the greater scheme of things for him to be in such a situation.

After pointing out the bad service in the UK last time out, I see that another friend, Colin Davies (in his blog), is experiencing difficulties in Spain with phone lines, printers and everything else. It also appears that he sees a disregard of the Spanish equivalent of the “Trades Descriptions Act” in the same way that we do over here and, as a solicitor, if he is helpless, God help the rest of us.

Tomorrow I will endeavour to get some sense from the Halifax and, amazingly, reply to the response (the first in about 9 or 10 months) from the web host who locked up one of my websites.

Staying with web hosts for the moment, I periodically give a view, or opinion, on the various companies that I use (have used) in terms of reliability, service quality etc. These views are not just based on me, but clients who I have referred to these companies and Streamline still seam to come out tops.

I have to say that I consider their service to have diminished somewhat since around July last year. There have been a number of smallish issues and although all have been resolved, their Tech department leaves you feeling slightly frustrated from time to time. Even so, for the price, they are still the best that I am aware of.

If anyone out there knows of any other “reliable” budget hosts (UK based) please let me know, I am desperate to add to my very limited list.

Concluding, Hurricane Smith died a couple of days ago. He recorded two really great songs in the early 1970’s and was also an engineer on some early Beatles albums. If you are interested, check out his videos on youtube.

If you like pop/rock music from the late 1970’ and early 1980’s, the new album by “The Feeling” called “Join with us” is a cross between ELO, Queen, 10cc, Hall and Oates and many other notables of that era and is one of the best CD’s that I have heard in the last 15 years. If you are/were an ELO fan, then this is a “must” buy album - you may also have spotted the pun in the title of this entry!

Friday, March 07, 2008

 

Referring to my entries of last week.


Not surprisingly, my wife’s Spanish passport arrived within the 7 to 10 day period as promised by the consulate last week.

Confirmation of our new mortgage agreement however has not. Despite speaking, after great efforts, face to face with an advisor and being promised written confirmation “early next week” (i.e. this week), the working week has now ended. Halifax bank continue their total and complete incompetence. Do we have the new rate? Do we have a mortgage? Is anyone working for the Halifax actually literate? On the last question at least, I think that I know the answer and I doubt that it begins with “y”!

X9internet
Yet more British incompetence today as I read an email from one of the web hosts that I have used, namely X9internet. This company are un-contact-able in every way. I have (thank God) only got (had) a single site hosted with them and despite emails through their account system, phone calls and even a recorded delivery letter, I have been unable to get them to do anything, e.g. Renew a domain hosted by them.

Today however, this bunch of jokers have sent me an email telling me that they have an account issue with me. Around this time last year I sent no less than 17 email communications (through their system) in order to try and update my account details and renew my domain and hosting plan.

Ultimately the domain and hosting expired without them doing anything (other than on a single occasion confirming that they would do “everything”). I renewed the domain with another company, continued to try and contact them and ultimately gave up. What, I wonder is their issue with me?

Getting back to Galicia, we are now only a month away from our first visit of 2008 and it cannot come soon enough. We have a fairly tight schedule with some meetings to make and a number of other things to resolve, but hopefully it will be relaxing at the same time.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

 

The power of TV

Last night there was a TV program, I think called a Place in the Sun, which featured house buying in Asturias, Galicia’s eastern neighbour.

The program, about buying property in different locations, was superficial and ill informed as ever when it came to the foreign destination, however it did show the beauty and value of buying a house in this region of Spain.

The title of this entry comes in to play when I point out that from around 9.00pm (when the program finished) until the end of the day, my Asturias Guide site had an increase in traffic of 1240%, and no, I have not got an extra digit in that statistic by mistake.

Naturally having seen the program I anticipated an increase in traffic, but not by anything approaching that percentage. The hits to Galicia Guide were also up by about 30% for a Friday, possibly indicating the recognised connection between Asturias and Galicia by many of the programs viewers.

Also of interest (at least to me) was the fact that something called a CPM (which is a rough indication of click through values on google ads) was also up in value significantly. This suggests that google adsense advertisers (with an interest in Asturias) paid higher bid prices to have their ads visible on related sites during that evening period. No doubt based on the knowledge of the programme being broadcast.

All interesting stuff and indicative of just how powerful TV is in all of our lives.

Additional bit of info (added on 02.03.2008) - The explanation for the increase in Galicia related traffic may in fact have been down to the repeating of a several year old episode of "A place in the sun" featuring Galicia on a more obscure digital channel, I think UK something or other!

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